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Glendale envisions future shopping at Atlas

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But on Tuesday night, the owners of the sprawling Glendale property told their neighbors...

By Dustin Brown

In its current state, Building #15 at Atlas Terminals is a hollow shell, a bare industrial space stripped down to a basic concrete floor and whitewashed brick walls.

But on Tuesday night, the owners of the sprawling Glendale property told their neighbors to rely on some imagination — along with a collection of vivid sketches splayed on easels across the room — to envision what the industrial park will look like once it is reinvented as a shopping mecca.

In another year, it won’t be so difficult. Building #15 is slated to reopen in 2004 as the first phase of the Shops at Atlas Park, a high-end retail development on Cooper Avenue and 80th Street that should begin welcoming the shopping public by spring 2005.

Tuesday’s makeshift reception area will turn into a bank, while an adjacent space that was cordoned off by an orange-mesh barrier and white streamers will emerge as a restaurant. A day-care center will occupy another space in the building.

Because the project fits entirely within the bounds of zoning, the developer — Atco Properties & Management — is under no obligation to solicit input from the community.

But the four-hour open house represented the developer’s latest effort to reach out to its neighbors, whom company officials hope will reap the most benefit from the project.

“The vast majority of sales here are going to be from the community. It’s oriented towards the people who live here,” said Damon Hemmerdinger, Atco’s development director. “Largely the reaction has been very positive. Most people are appreciative of what we’re doing here.”

But not all. Residents of the surrounding streets came armed with fears about what the sprawling retail center would do to their neighborhood.

“I’m concerned with the quality of life. Is it gonna be noisy? We have to live here,” said Susan Infante, 45, a resident of 86th Street. “It’s always been a nice, quiet, serene place and I’m afraid over time it’s going to become a zoo.”

But Hemmerdinger was on hand to answer their questions, and a box wrapped in brown paper with a slit on top invited guests to slip in written comments and surveys. For every person who complained, a few more doled out praise.

“I’m thrilled to death that they’re doing this,” said Denise Weppler, 50, who walked to the open house from her home on 69th Road. “It’s going to better the neighborhood, it’s going to bring up the value of my house.

Even City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan) gave a thumbs-up after stopping by for half an hour.

“I think it’s terrific that a company with strong roots in the community is willing to put money into jobs and retail here,” Miller said.

Not every demographic found its wants fulfilled, however. When 13-year-old Mahmoud Ghanim asked what kind of stores he should expect to see, Samantha Markey, a representative of the management company, responded with a simple question: “Do you have a sister?”

He nodded.

“Probably places she’d like to go,” Markey said.

His disappointment was palpable.

“It’s a good idea, but I dunno, I think it’s gonna be like an old people’s place,” he said.

Still undeterred, Ghanim offered a bit of advice: “If they do have an arcade — make it cheap.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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